Last Night: Pissed Jeans at Bottom of the Hill
Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2009
Bottom of the Hill
Better than: Yer typical '90s nostalgia.
On record, Allentown, PA's Pissed Jeans are feral. Frontman Matt Korvette could be singing about getting a massage ("Request for Masseuse") and the tension in his voice could hammer the knots into your neck, no matter how slow and tar-thick the music. So you'd expect that live, the group would ramp up the rabid factor, really showing the crowd the fangs barely contained in the sneers plastered all over their albums. Instead, Pissed Jeans veered into the humorous, Korvette slithering around the stage like a demented Jim Morrison fronting a hardcore band.
It was clear from the start that as Pissed Jeans' focal point, Korvette was gonna milk the Jesus Lizard freak angle. As he bounded between bassist Randy Huth and guitarist Bradley Fry--shirtless after only one song--he channeled all the scuzzy sexual frustration in the band's sludgy punk songs into his microphone. The stand went between his legs or into his tight gray jeans, the mike itself got shoved into his mouth, or dangled limply from the overhead Christmas lights as he fellated it with his tongue, slowly. The perverted theatrics worked, making the singer seem as unhinged as the rest of the band was anchored in giant, pulverizing chunks of heavy hardcore punk.
Pissed Jeans incited a modest mosh pit, above which Korvette lorded with a satisfied grin. But he was best when playing up insanity--like when he screamed into a wall, face and hips pressed into the brick as he pantomimed screwing. Or when he rolled his eyes like they'd broken loose of their ties in the socket, pupils shaken by the oppressive throb of black noise around him.
That intensity is hard work to maintain, though, and there were moments in the middle of the set when Pissed Jeans lost its Am Rep/Melvins/early Sub Pop luster and seemed more like a typical hardcore band, Korvette curled over his mike and the band erecting a wall of hurt behind him. Sonically, the group is less dynamic live than on record, in part because this breed of bruising sound demands a penetrating volume that hits with little subtlety. Still, Pissed Jeans opened and closed with impressive ferocity, and the brevity of their set helped the performance from flatlining too much.
Local opening acts Hissing Wound and Mi Ami were less abrasive than the headliner and the diversity of the bands' aesthetics worked for this lineup. Hissing Wound cut the difference between Mogwai and Sonic Youth, playing with course feedback and post-rock swells of melody and noise for a sound that was blissed out, drugged out, and haunting. They cast a spell that Mi Ami did its best to break, the latter opening the middle set with a demand to the crowd: "Don't live your life afraid." From there the trio exploded into action, a whirlwind of yelping, high pitched vocals and an eclectic mishmash of beats and basslines. Mi Ami's rhythm section is the best part of the band, as the drummer crosses an international map from tight dancefloor beats to dubbier grooves, phantom electronics coating everything with colorful psychedelic washes.
Worst microphone violation of the night: You really wouldn't want to be the guy sharing microphones with Pissed Jeans--especially after Korvette used the thing like a handkerchief at one point, blowing his nose all over the top. That's one way to add some distortion to your sound.